26. February 2024 · Comments Off on Florida International Audio Expo 2024 Report · Categories: Hifi News, Hifi Shows, Industry Insider · Tags: , , , ,

HIFI PIG REPORTS FROM THE FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL AUDIO EXPO 2024, IN TAMPA

Florida International Audio Expo 2024 report

Held over the weekend of the 16th to 18th of February, in the Embassy Suites by Hilton Tampa Airport Westshore, the Florida International Audio Expo 2024 was the 6th edition of this rapidly growing HiFi Show.

We asked Joseph Greenham, HiFi and Music fan and Digital Creator at Psyphonyx Audio, to report from the show for HiFi PiG, so sit back and relax as Joseph takes you around the show, with coverage of his standout rooms and plenty of photos, we hope it makes you feel like you were at the show with him!

Please note, all content and photos are the copyright of HiFi PiG Magazine/Big Pig Media LLP and must not be copied or reproduced in any way without the prior, written consent of HiFi PiG/Big Pig Media.

FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL AUDIO EXPO 2024 REPORT

The Florida International Audio Expo 2024 was my first ever time in Florida – It was exciting! The show had a good vibe, lots of friends, and plenty of music to enjoy. There was a vinyl pop-up shop for those looking for a great deal or a reason to expand their collection. A local jazz band was on hand to serenade visitors at the end of each day. Visitors had banners and posted signs throughout the show to easily find their way to each exhibitor. Without an exact number, I hear the show was busier this year than previous show. The best advice I was given before the show was, ‘Start at the top and work your way down ‘ – I ignored this and my legs felt the fate of my decision. Without further ado, I am honoured to bring you views from the Florida International Audio Expo 2024.

COASTAL SOURCE

Starting off my Florida Show journey, Coastal Source. A brand which provide products for outdoor, all-weather, audio solution. They make a wide variety of standing speakers, the 12.0 Line Source on display, which have an array of woofers and ribbon-style tweeters. Their sound is definitely HiFi and wide dispersion for a great sound wherever you stand or sit. The control box houses the amplifier components while an appropriately weather rated cable delivers source signal and power. Coastal Source have options for on-wall mounted (Razor model) and buried in-ground subwoofers. The room had some plants acting like diffusion but also suits the intended installation for these really impressive outdoor speakers. A very pleasant start to day 1!

VOLTI

At first glance, one would be forgiven for mistaking these towers for something from another horn loaded driver speaker brand.

However, with a keen ear, the character and quality of the Voliti New Lucera speakers ($11,750pr USD) becomes clear – very clear. I enjoyed their dynamic capability with a moderate forward presentation. Powered by BoarderPatrol Audio Electronics S20 EXD EXS, BP DAC, and Innuos Music Server and Triode Wire labs through out. An enjoyable smooth musical presentation.

ORCHARD AUDIO / SOUND FIELD AUDIO

It’s always nice to catch up with Orchard Audio’s owner and designer, Leo Ayzenshtat. For this show a pair of lovely looking Sound Field Audio open back speakers that flanked the New Orchard Audio Pecan Pi Streamer Premium – ($1249.95 preorder) msrp = $1499.95 and pair of Starkrimson Mono Premium – 150w 8ohm ($1049.95 Preorder price) msrp = $1249.95. These New Premium models have really nice looking chassis. The pairing of an open back speaker with very high efficient amps made this room sound alive. The ability for Orchard Audio GaN Fet Amplifier technology to control the drivers in an open back design is apparent with dynamic music losing no character and remaining clear and defined. Really nice sounding system for a fraction of the price of many others.

SUBDRUM

I hadn’t heard of SubDrum previous to the show, but I was soon a fan of their design ideas! As a drummer, I can appreciate the style and look of a speaker in a drum. These were great sounding, especially styled for a jam space or a garage. SubDrum include their own amp for the New All-in-One model. The All-In-One has an 18in woofer mounted in a bass drum with a pair of coaxial 2way drivers on the opposite side. The room was playing music on a pair of the Tom Drum models with the Subwoofer Coffee table below. These guys were really fun to meet with and definitely the character of music lovers.

MC AUDIOTECH

I came to the MC “ Music Cordis“ Audiotech room while the TL-8 were playing. These modestly sized tower speakers, utilizing a TL design for the bass, and a wide band proprietary driver, have the largest sweet spot. The Wide Band driver is mounted with side vents creating a dipole-like effect. Combined with a 94db sensitivity, these were very musical with lots of dynamics. I had stopped in at a later time to hear the TL-12 and the sound character was very similar but with an obvious depth of bass. I was happy to discover this speakers at the show.

ELAC

A friend of mine asked me, soon after the show had finish, “Hey Jo, What speaker would you take home under $10k“. Most of the time this is rather tough to answer. Fortunately for us all, ELAC brought 2 NEW options. The 3way Concentro S 503 standmount (white gloss finish, $7,000) and New Vela BS 404.2 stand-mount (black gloss finish, $3,500) offerings were stunning. Powered by ELAC’s own Alchemy DDP2 Pre/DAC ($2,900ea) and Alchemy DPA2 Stereo/Mono amp ($1,750ea), the ELAC Concentro S 503 had some of the best sound amidst them all. While there was a new Verro subwoofer displayed in the room, visitors (myself included) could swear there was a subwoofer connected. Incredible sound image and bass weight. Definitely an editors choice if I may say so.

GERSHMAN ACOUSTICS – C.A.T. / WOLF AUDIO / AAVIK / CARDAS CABLES

Like any true music lover, the floor partially covered in albums at the ready, the Gershman Acoustics room welcomed many for a listening opportunity. For our musical pleasure, The 30th Anniversary Black Swan Model were connected to a CAT SL1 Legend Extreme aGS PreAmp, CAT JL7SE power amps, a Wolf Audio Streamer, Aavik D-580 DAC, VPI Avenger TT, all laced together with Cardas cables. These Black Swan towers are unlike many others, in that the bass module can be positioned separately from the upper section. The result is a transparent and revealing presentation of the finest details. Music seemed to emanate from inside the room between the speakers.

GRANDINOTE / KIMBER KABLE

When faced with a large tower with an array of woofers, I often get excited. The Grandinote (GN) and Kimber Kable (KK) room presented the GN Mach8XL Speakers connected by KK KS 6068 to an impressive looking GN Solo Integrated amp along with the GN Volta DAC Streamer connected with KK KS1136 cables and PK10 Palladian power cables. This system lived up to my excitement by presenting a nuance and balanced tone across the room. The sound power was able to compensate for the typical issue of a small hotel room even without much of any room treatments.

PLAYBACK AUDIO – PMC / TEAC

I don’t believe I have ever heard a PMC product that I disliked. I stopped by the Playback Audio room featuring the PMC FACT 12 towers powered by two TEAC AP701 D amps that are horizontally Bi-Amped for Highs and Lows, a TEAC UD701D Pre-Amp/Network streamer handled the source material alongside a TEAC CD VRDS 701T.  The FACT 12 have a very delicate sound with great detail. The Advance Transmission Line that most PMC have brings a smooth depth to the bass. This room solidified my beliefs yet again – I still enjoy every PMC speaker I hear.

FOCAL POWERED BY NAIM

I have to admit that I was a bit anxious to hear the New Naim Uniti Nova PE Integrated Class D amplifier. Before my trip down to Florida Audio Expo, there were questions about the progress of Naim and the type of amp used in this new model – All that I can say on record is Im VERY happy the engineering team pursued the option I was told about. The Nova PE was hooked up to the also very new Focal Aria Evo No. 4 in a gloss Moss Green. This room within a room was generously treated and sounded great. The pairing brought life to songs with sparkle and finesse while also putting out gripping bass character. I’d say these new Forcal Powered By Naim combinations are match made in ..France, I guess? UK? Look – I’m just glad we’re all able to join hands and enjoy the music.

The second room, and larger of the two, presented the Focal Scala Utopia in a gorgeous Ebene Blanc (White Ebony) finish, courtesy of Focal Powered by Naim House of Stereo in Jacksonville, FL. (Thank you, on behalf of all guests) What a treat! These are some full range beauties. Powering the system, The Naim New Classic 300 Series: NSS Streamer, NAC Pre-Amp, NAP 350 Mono-blocks, and  NPX Power supplies. I asked Focal representative Chris Shaw to play some Andrea Bonelli for me, my go-to show reference and wow. With the system dialled in by my 3rd day visit, it was very good. Vocal clarity was rich and full while instruments presented body and texture. A fantastic example of what synergy in a system can do for the love of music.

FINE SOUNDS – PRO-JECT / SONUS FABER / ROTEL

Fine Sounds Americas presented a number of rooms, one which I visited had the New Sonus Faber Lumina V Amator and Lumina II Amator. These new editions feature 45 degree woodgrain baffle similar to Duetto, Homage and Stradivari models. Having owned the standard model of the Lumina V, this was a good opportunity to hear the crossover changes in the Amator model. Playing Qobuz from the new Rotel RAS 5000 Integrated Amp streamer, the sound was familiar with perhaps a slight warmth from what I recall of the standard version. Also presented was the New Pro-ject T2 Super Phono which has a premium built-in phono preamp that paired perfectly to the Rotel RAS 5000 which does not have a phono stage input. I have never been much of a vinyl person, but with products like this new Pro-ject T2 Super Phono it makes that plug-n-play option far easier to consider.

Also on display from Pro-ject were a collection of New phono stage devices: MC Step Up Box DS3 B, Tube Box DS3 B, Phono DS3 B, and Phono Box S3 B. It was nice to have reps on hand to help walk me through the purpose of each device and why quality matters at each phono stage. A great experience.

HOUSE OF STEREO – STENHEIM / SOLOISTA / WOLF AUDIO / VPI

House of Stereo represented at many rooms this year. One of these hosted by one of the best, Walter Schofield, had a Stenheim – Alumine 5.SE tower speakers, a lovely looking Viva Audio – Soloista Integrated Amp, Wolf Audio systems – Red Wolf 2 SX streamer, T+A SD 31000 HV Reference Streaming DAC, and a slew of Synergistic Research Power & Cable devices. During the demo, Walter switched over from streaming to the VPI Turntable with a highly praised DS Audio – Grand master EX Cartridge. A tremendous sound and musical experience. Sometimes, the right presentation sets the mood to enjoy the music even more.

PLAYBACK AUDIO – AMPHION / ESOTERIC

It was really nice to see Amphion Audio on display in the Playback Distribution during my visit this year. Featuring a system including the Krypton Tower Speakers ($24,000 USD), paired to Esoteric Electronics, the F-02 Integrated Amp ($18,000 USD), N-05XD Network streamer ($11,000 USD), and K-03XD SACD player ($15,000 USD). There was a static display pair of the Amphion Aragon 3S standmount speakers near the back of the room. I became familiar with the brand for their well known professional studio monitors. Having Anssi Hyvönen, company founder & CEO, in room to talk about the acoustic design principles of the cabinet and features was really great. Amazing sound. It’s quickly apparent why these are chosen by many pros in studio and music creation.

DEEP DIVE AUDIO

Franco Serblin is a name not soon forgotten in my audio journey. I was thrilled to see that Deep Dive Audio room was showcasing the new Franco Serblin Goldberg Speakers ($13,475 USD pr. $2500 for the stands) paired to the Margules I-240 Integrated Amp ($7,000 USD) playing from a Silent Angle Mu Streamer DAC ($4,000 USD). A rich and smooth presentation with all the joy the music has to offer.

Connected to a separate system beside the Goldberg speakers were an unassumingly small pair of Audience 1+1 V5 Speakers ( $4,500 USD pr ) connected to a Margules Magenta ACRH-4 Hybrid Integrated amp playing

HIGH END BY OZ – LANCE / SOLISTA / ESOTERIC / THRAX

“Do you have any plasma Tweeters, sir? “ …Oz says, “ Yes. In fact, we do. Come on in! “ …and so I did. High End By Oz system was set up in one of the larger rooms located on the 2nd floor of the Hotel. The system featured the Lansche Audio 5.2 White tower speakers ($57,000 USD pr) that have a Plasma tweeter! (it sounds like a joke but its real!) Speakers were paired to Viva Audio Solista MKIII Integrated Amp ($29,500), Thrax Audio – Maximius Silver DAC ($38,500), Esoteric K-05XD SACD player ($12,000 USD), tied together with Albedo Silver Cables. Now, I’m no stranger to science and I’ve come to trust my ears when observing HiFi Audio, and this system was so clean and clear I thought maybe my ears just popped after the flight down to Florida. Wow! For the fan of dynamic clarity and nuance in the musical landscape, this system is among the best.

SUNCOAST – CLARISYS / AURENDER / LUMIN / SHUNYATA

First thing I will say, this room was one of the best lit rooms. As it turns out, Mike Malley, whom represented Suncoast Audio in the room on the 9th floor, tells me ‘I am also into photography ‘. It was a treat to have a room this well set up for both sound and our media purposes. The system consisted of the Clarisys Audio Minuet ($46,000 USD), powered by VAC 170iQ Integrated Amp (at the time of my demo), with source provided by the Aurender A20 Streamer ($15,000 USD), with Lumin P1 ($10,000 USD) and Lumin L2 ( $3500). Shunyata Research handled the cabling including the new Eiger 6000T Tower Power distribution ($4995 USD) and Altaira Ground Box ($2998 USD). The Clarisys speakers are some of the most impressive panel speakers I’ve heard. Seated in the sweet spot reveals so much clarity and balanced bass texture without a subwoofer.

Down on the 2nd floor, Suncoast hosted a much larger system of Clarisys and Tri-Amplified from 6 VAC amps

FIDELITY IMPORTS / PERLISTEN 2 CHANNEL

Fidelity Imports was a big presence at the show. The Perlisten brand was presented in two rooms. One for two channel HiFi music. In this system, the S7T Limited Edition Towers ($29,990 USD pr), Audia Flight FLS1 PreAmp ($7499), Audia Flight FLS4 Stereo Amp ($9999), QED Cables, Titan Audio Power Cables, NEO System Rack. I got to speak with the designer and CEO, Dan Roemer, about the technology changes to used improve details for this Limited Edition. The S7T speakers feature a larger cabinet than the standard S7T and curved carbon fiber side panels that help with cabinet resonances. These improvements present music with such dynamic capabilities at even the loudest volumes. If you like music loud – These are for you. Truly an honour to meet the design team at this event.

Right across the hall, Zach and his team at Dreamedia were hosting home theater demos. 1 of only 2 rooms at the entire event presenting immersive Atmos listening options, despite these words being pressed into music media constantly. This system was running Perlisten R series speakers on Pimare Electronics. The R Series speakers are the R7T Tower, R5C Center, R4S Surround x4 ( 2 mounted at the back of the room and 2 suspended over-head) The two subwoofers, R212s. This is a 5.1.2 Atmos configuration. Handling the processing is the New Primare SP25, 11 channel Home Theater Processor paired with the Primare A35.8, 8x 150w/channel Power Amp. This system was dialled down to 90db in room due to noise complaints from the neighbouring hotel rooms. The Movie and Music sound demos were astounding. Having access to a library of movies via a Kaleidescape system, it was a great demonstration of what is possible with a good design even in a compromised space like a hotel room. Highly recommended experience.

FIDELITY IMPORTS – OPERA / SOULNOTE

Another really sweet sounding room presented by Fidelity Imports featured an elegant pair of Italian made Opera Loudspeakers Callas Diva tower speakers ($11,999 USD), SOUlNOTE A-3 Integrated amp ($24,999), SOULNOTE D-3 DAC ($24,999 USD), a great looking Michell Audio Tecnodec Turn Table ($2199 USD excluding cartridge), and a SOULNOTE E-2 Phono Preamp ($8999 USD).  Aside from the truly gorgeous looking gear, the combination present a rich and detailed sound that felt comforting almost as if the space transformed into a lounge cafe rather than a hotel room. Excellent sound performance.

FIDELITY – DIPTYQUE / AUDIO FLIGHT

The Fidelity Imports room featuring the Diptyque DP-140 panel speakers ($16,999 USD pr), Audio Flight FLS10 Integrated Amp w/DAC ($16,999 USD), and Michell Audio Gyro SE TurnTable ($6499 USD) with CUSIS E Cartridge ($1299 USD) presented the most surprising sound. With a thin profile and dipolar design, the bass presence and full range sound was quite impressive. While seated in the center position, the Diptyques have a very pleasant dynamic range and clarity.

WYNN – VIMBERG / KARAN

It was nice to see Wynn Audio presenting at FLAX. For this system, Wynn presented the Vimberg Mino Speakers ($ 40,000 USD), Métronome AQWO SACD/CD Player & Streamer w/Tube Output stage ($24,300 USD), Karan Acoustics LINEb Preamp ($29,000 USD) and POWERb Stereo Power Amp ($43,000 USD). The whole system wired with Fono Acoustia cables and a Entreq Olympus Infinity Groundbox ($4750 USD) and a Critical Mass Systems rack. I am fortunate to have heard Wynn present at four North American Audio show locations, and this system with Vimberg in a smaller room had all the same great quality and character with a touch more intimate details even without much of any room treatments. A distinct pleasure.

AXISS AUDIO

Axiss Audio put some thought and care into their room. With a selection of Nihon Onkyo Engineering acoustic treatments around the room, the Gauder Akustik DARC 250 Mk || 4-way Reference Loudspeakers ($249,975 USD/pr) could really shine without too much negative effect from the room. The speakers were supported by a set of Solution Electronics, 727 Pre amp with Phono Module ($89,950.00), Two 511 Power Amplifier (as Monoblocks) ($41.975.00 each), Solution 560 Digital to Analog Converter ($39.975.00), 590 USB Re-Clocking Bridge, and a Room Nucleus+ Music Server (Customized). For my listening experience, the turntables were not providing source material rather we enjoyed a selection via streaming. Without hesitation, this is a pricey system. For me evaluating any system isn’t a matter of price. The brilliant sound, clear, spacious, large sound stage is a result of Cliff Duffey and his team from Axiss Audio spending time setting up the room correctly. Always a pleasure to hear what this team brings to any show.

NEXT LEVEL HIFI / 3 ROOMS OF AUDIO GROUP DENMARK

Audio Group Denmark was presenting 3 systems in 3 rooms with their Chicago-based retailer Next Level HiFi. My tour starts with the largest of the three.

Just across from the 2nd floor bar and lounge area, and a short walk outside along a bridge, I arrive at a large separate room displaying the Børresen Acoustics M3 towers with a full rack of Aavik Electronics, C-880 Control PreAmp, SD-880 Streamer / DAC, and 2x P-880 Power Amps wired in a horizontal Bi-Amp configuration. A Power Switch D-TC Gold Signature handled the network and Mainz 8 D-TC Gold Signature and PowerBox D-TC Gold Signature handle the power. A full loom of Ansuz Gold Signature Series cables ties all the components together. What I think sets Audio Group Denmark apart from so many others are the extreme use of technology and techniques therein to arrive at levels of audio quality performance rarely heard. The M Series speakers are so life-like and project effortless clarity it almost begs belief. This year, a display box of these technologies is available for visitors to get a closer look into the speaker components, woofer basket, coil and magnet construction. Ultimate performance lay in the smallest details.

In room 2 and 3, up on the 6th floor, the X series speakers were showcased. The X2 Towers ($8800 USD pair) paired with an Axxess Forté 2 Integrated amp with Ansus Mainz 8 A3 distribution and Power Switch A3 Network switch. The modest sized tower would be ideal for small rooms or apartments as the sound power in the hotel space was very powerful. Many would assume there is a subwoofer hidden somewhere, but none is to be found. The X series speakers share some of the technology trickled down from the M series. The character is very similar if only scaled down for lesser demanding listeners. I feel the X2 may be the sweet spot for many looking to enjoy this level HiFi.

The last of the 3 rooms, we get to see the world debut of the X1 Standmount speaker. ($5500 + $1100 USD for stands). Sharing much of the Børresen Acoustics DNA down to the smallest of all loudspeaker offerings from Audio Group Denmark. These are strikingly beautiful in a F1 race car sort of way. The X1 were paired with a Forté 1 Integrated Amp / DAC / Streamer and Ansuz Mains 8 X-tc3 and PowerSwitch X-TC3 and cables. For an entire system including cables under $20k to have this level HiFi sound character, many would be fooled in a blind demo into thinking these were nearly $80k. These X1 standmounts are a show stopper! Highly recommended to anyone considering a valuable upgrade. What a pleasure!

PURE AUDIO PROJECT / AGD / VPI

Pure Audio Project brought their 10th anniversary model, the Trio10 w/ HeliAMT tweeter. ($5990), connected to a AGD Productions Alto MKII Analog-Digital Preamp Streamer, ($7500) and AGD Temp MKIII 200watt GAN Power Amp, ($5500 USD), Silversmith Audio cables connected the entire system. These open back designed speakers in a modest room performed surprisingly well. The tweeter is a real gem, detailed, airy, combined with the 10inch woofers and GAN power, Bass was tight and textured. An enjoyable listening experience.

ACORA ACOUSTICS – VPI / AURENDER / LAMPIZATOR / CARDAS

If there was an editor’s choice award for the most beautiful and striking product for the entire show – these new Sunset Fire natural granite finish VRC-1 speakers are truly spectacular. After a quick discussion with owner and designer Valerio Acora, I learn these will be a very special order for serious buyers. Their base price is $218k USD. The system on display consisted of VAC Statement 450 iQ Amplifiers ($67k USD), VAC Statement Line Stage ($80k), VAC Statement Phono Stage ($80k USD). Analog sources courtesy of a VPI Titan Direct with one tone arm ($60k USD), Hana Umami Red ($3950 USD) with digital sources provided by an Aurender N30SA – Reference ($25k USD) and LampizatOr – Poseidon DAC ( listed as 23,000 Euros ). Cables provided by Cardas.

It is one thing to pry oneself away from the visual appeal of this natural granite only to then be transported directly into the recording space when the music plays. Acora speakers have this uncanny ability to disappear by presenting micro details and sound stage like very few can. These were playing all kinds of genres and songs for guests. Always a pleasure listening to Acora.

GESHELLI LABS

Geshelli Labs are not just a Audio and HiFi brand that brings a plethora of Headphone amps and DACs to market and amazingly affordable prices, custom metal chassis and colours, custom carved wood chassis options, this team brings a party to the Audio Show! One glance down the hall and the colourful LEDs will guide your way. This year Geshelli were showcasing their New ZOOFA Integrated amp at 100w per channel into 8ohms. (Starting at $2000 USD) and the New Dayzee DAC (starting at $1300 USD) that features dual AKM 4499ex with EIGHT socketed OpAmps. Both of these new models can be customized with chassis options for additional costs.

One system was paired with the Treehaus Audiolab open baffle field coil speakers in a new Texture Black Metallic Finish. With a Michell GyroSE Turntable set up, it presented a nice relaxed sound that filled the room. In the second room, a pair of MoFi Source Point 10s provided rich and smooth sounds for visitors. Both rooms showcase the capable range of the new ZOOFA integrated amp and Dayzee DAC. With a wide range of genres and music playing all weekend, it was difficult to leave the room any time I passed by. Fantastic products and truly great people.

SPARKOS

I felt it was a good idea to follow up from the Geshelli Labs room with a brand that provides some of the components that go into their DAC models. Sparkos is a brand that designs OpAmps to be used in Professional recording studios and HiFi products. Their room showcased many levels of options for the HiFi Audio Enthusiast that is looking to swap parts to dial into their ideal sound. This isn’t quite a D.I.Y. type of product, but a user friendly plug-n-play option for use in Products like Geshelli Labs Socketed models of the J2 DAC.

Sparkos also had a few headphone amps of their own for demo. The Gemini headphone amp offers Tube front and end user controllable dials to set personal presence for sound quality. With a 4-pin balanced out and 750mw at 300ohms and up to 2watts max at 32ohms, these amps will serve a wide variety of headphones. Also available is The Aries Headphone amp and preamp which uses flagship OpAmps and Stepped Reed Relay Attenuator providing a smooth and silent volume adjustments. It was a really nice opportunity to speak with technology developers about a device that actually makes the sound different.

TAD / PAD HIFI

T.A.D. is one of those legendary HiFi names. The room showcasing 2 systems was of the largest at the event. On one end of the room, the Reference One TX speakers R1TX Ultimate and CR1TX Compact, a DA1000TX SACD player, C600 PerAmp (Anticipating a new 700 soon) and powered by TAD M700 mono-block amps. Without hesitation, one of the cleanest sounds of the show. Set in a large room with space for sound to envelop the listener and additional room treatments by Jocavi Acoustic Panels, I can see why many exhibitors enjoyed this system during after hours each night.

The opposite end of the room showcased Grand Evolution GE1TX and Compact Evolution CE1TX speakers connected to C1000 PreAmp and powered by M1000 2ch power amp. My time in room, the Compact Evolution TX were able to project sound I could have sworn came from the larger of the two speakers. Incredible details, dynamics, sound stage accuracy as instruments moved through space. A great example of well engineered technology and a team that knows how to get the best sound in any space. Fantastic experience.

SOUNDLUX / AUDIO NOTE UK

I am no stranger to the Audio Note UK brand or its lovely representatives that I’ve met at many of the shows over the last 4 years. This is the first time I was able to meet and listen to Peter Qvortrup, owner and designer, express himself about the technology of Audio Note UK. The system consisted of a CDT Four CD Transport and TT-Three Turntable with IO 1 Moving Coil Cartridge & PSU 3 for the sources. A AN-S8 Step Up Transformer, M6 Phono Pre Amp, and Jinro Shochu Power Amplifier. The speakers, AN E / SPx Ltd Field Coil Speakers provided the magic. As Peter would describe for guests, ‘large woofers can’t move fast enough to reproduce music accurately’. It was such a joy to listen and experience the passion for music in this way. I was especially thrilled when a Noisia, an EDM group from the Netherlands, song was selected to demo. Truly remarkable.

AGD PRODUCTION INC – OCEAN WAY SPEAKERS

AGD Productions featured a system including Ocean Way Audio Loudspeakers powered by a pair of Gran Vivace MKIII SE Power Amps ($20,500 USD). One would be forgiven for thinking these are traditional tube amps, but on closer look these are actually a well engineered GaN ( Galium Nitride ) Class D Amp. The GanTube, as AGD trademark, is a power stage inside of a KT88 Tube that can actually be removed and serve to upgrade the power stage of the amplifier in the future. With a rated 400w at 4ohm output, this system could articulate all the nuances in the music. Solid bass, great smoothness, and sound stage presence. With a tasteful amount of room treatments, it was a pleasure to hear the AGD Production amps in person.

CABASSE 

Easily one of the most surprising powered speaker solutions at the show. Cabasse Rialto is a 3-way enclosure with a Coaxial midrange tweeter facing forwards and bass woofer facing the rear. The pair are linked via WiFi and can be synchronized with other pairs in a home. With 3 amplifiers per enclosure topping out at 1050 watts per channel and a reported 30hz low extension is very much a real statement. These two elegant looking cube-like speakers easily filled the room with deep low bass and the sweet spot was like sitting at a live DJ set. Absolutely incredible performance for a pair costing $3,995 USD. These rank very nigh on a short list of options for anyone looking for a simple 2 channel solution. Absolutely incredible.

JUST AUDIO

The Just Audio guys came out in full force with 2 rooms filled with products and few on demo. One room was showcasing the Mission HiFi stand mount speakers and Audiolab Electronics. I was particularly impressed with the KEF Reference 1 stand mount speaker demo on the Accuphase Integrated amp in the second room. It was set up somewhat near-field and it worked so well! Streaming from a Rose HiFi streamer, it was fun to switch between tracks and allowed the team to take requests from visitors.

ARETAI

I had visited Jānis Irbe, of Aretai, early in the weekend to hear the standmount model, the Contra 100S ($9000 USD) playing some streaming content via the Aurender A20. The speakers were powered by a C.A.T. JL5 Black Path Extreme LE Triode Tube Amp, controlled by a C.A.T. SL1 Legend  Black Path Extreme Pre Amp, all wired with Viable Cables. The 100S with two woofers, one facing forward and another on the back, were capable of pushing bass notes into the low 30hz with ease. A very impressive performance from a relatively small enclosure. The unique waveguide seemed to allow higher frequency to flow smoother without a cabinet edge causing interference. Really impressive and pleasant.

A day later, I stopped by again to follow up, and the Contra 200F ($24,000) had arrived (late due to some customs issue). These are a 3.5 way tower with Dual 8-inch woofers, firing front & back, that reach 25hz, and a wave-guide loaded midrange below the same waveguide tweeter. Powered by a pair of C.A.T. Black Path JL7 SE Tube Amps, the character of the 200F was that of a larger scale, deeper bass, and a midrange that seemed to be more open, and tonally balanced. At 95 db sensitivity, these were aligned very well with my personal taste. Definitely worth a demo if ever the chance arrives.

MARGULES GROUP

Margules Group products are new to me and I am so glad I got to see and hear them at the Florida show. These are some of the best looking HiFi products. In the system, Margules U280 Limited Edition 30 th Anniversary Amplifier ($12,000 USD), Margules SF220 Special Edition Preamplifier ($8,000), Margules Music Server/Streamer ($3,000). The Speakers, Margules Overture Century ($19,900), really caught my eye. Not only are they very unique and stylish but performed with high-quality musicality. Viable cables connected the system. Definitely one of the few big surprises of the show and absolutely won the ‘ awe-struck ‘ moment award.

METAXAS & SINS

Just ahead of the Florida International Audio Expo, I had seen glimpses of what I had thought were sculptures or mannequin-style HiFi Accessories. As it turns out, Metaxas & Sins did bring sculptures, only these are functional Speakers, Pre and Power amps! Including a headphone amp and a Reel-to-Reel, all devices have a sense of ‘watch maker’ to them. The Speakers are precision machined from a 200kg block of Aluminum and carefully assembled in sections. Named ‘The Siren’, the speakers are listed for $128,000 USD. Also in the system, Tourbillon T-RX Reel-To-Reel, ($49,000 USD), Solitaire Integrated Amp ($41,000 USD). In the side room, Metals & Sins were also demonstrating a headphone amp, the Ethereal ($32,000) plus the stand ($3,000). I got the listen to the amp through a pair of Stax SR-X9000 headphones and immediately acknowledged the fidelity of the system. It was truly astonishing. With some of the most intricate and stylish designs of any HiFi equipment I have ever seen, these items really make a statement.

ENDOW AUDIO 

Endow Audio were showcasing two models for the show. The larger Bravura 12.2 ($12,900 showpiece), which have dual opposed 12inch woofers and a unique array of mids around the back end of a waveguide tweeter housing. The speakers were paired with a Black Ice Audio F18A Power Amp ($3,875) and Black Ice Audio Fusion DAC-Transport ($3250) along with Endow cables throughout. The unique design and driver arrangement creates an open and spacious sound stage that stretched as wide as the room. Music was still accurately placed across the room without losing details from any reflection.

In the second room, the smaller stand mounts, Endow Audio Bravura 7.2 ($4900 show price), which feature a 7-inch woofer and radiator on the rear and the same midrange and tweeter top mounted enclosure. For source and power, The Orchard Audio PecanPi+ streamer -DAC ($799.95) connected to an Orchard Audio Starkrimson Duo B7 ($1875). For a system totalling a cost of less than some rooms have in 1 or 2 cables alone, this sound was dynamic, detailed, enough bass for the room size. Having the sweet spot more than 2 seats wide and never losing your front row feeling makes for a very great system!

HEADPHONE – MOON AUDIO

 On the 14th floor, was a haven for Headphone brands and accessories. I spent some time browsing and sampling many of the offerings from Moon Audio, Woo Audio and Audeze. I admit that I am not familiar with many of the items for headphones or brands, but I do know a good sound when I hear it. The most stand out combination of headphones and amps that I discovered was the dCS Bartok Apex BDH DAC Headphone Amplifier ($22,950) with the HiFiman HE1000 V2 Stealth headphones ($1399) using the Moon Audio Silver Dragon BNC Cables ($325ea). All of the clarity and rich tone that I could have asked for and then I saw the prices. Of course, it was THAT good. I wasn’t going to let that spoil my mood, so I picked up and carried on.

HEADPHONE – WOO AUDIO

The Woo Audio room had a few notable items, namely the new Woo Audio Tube Mini USB DAC for balanced headphones. It comes with a clever docking station to be used for a desktop computer system at home and can easily be removed and used on mobile devices when needed. Another new item, the WA23 Luna single end Tube Headphone Amp and Pre Amp featuring a stylish gold chassis. Also on the demo table, the WA22 2nd Gen Balanced Headphone Amp / Pre amp and larger WA33 Balanced Headphone Amp / Pre Amp. For the demanding Electrostatic headphone fans, the ES8 Fully-Balanced ES Headphone amp offered this demo for visitors. It was an interesting experience to see just how many options for headphones could be displayed in one room, however, I’d never have time to hear them all and get any other work done.

HEADPHONE ZONE

PERFECT8 TECHNOLOGIES

The most transparent system of the entire show! Ha! This was a running joke in the room at the time of my visit. I can echo that same sentiment for the sound. Very balanced and clear sound. Combined with the dual opposed 10-inch subwoofer, these relatively small speakers easily filled the space with clear sound. It’s no ironic twist of fate the enclosures are glass. Perfect8 Technologies – The Cube – is a must see and hear system whenever they are in town.

CAT

M101 CABLES – PARADIGM / AGD PRODUCTION / GRIMM AUDIO / AUDIOPHOOL

Some say, that cables do matter; others may just enjoy a stress-free life. I am not one to argue with either of these choices. I will report, though, that M101 Cables are some of the best-looking cables that clearly show a real use of basic electronic science in their form and function. I was able to catch a demo of switching out a model of Ethernet Cable from M101, “Nova“, and, I can honestly say, it did make a notable difference. The system, a pair of Paradigm Persona 3F towers, AGD Production Grand Vivace Amps, Grimm Audio MU1 Streamer / Server, Audiophool Network Switch. The M101 HyperNova series cables connected the system throughout. I am familiar with the Paradigm Persona sound and this was the best I heard them yet. Townshend Audio Seismic podiums for support combined with the loom of M101 cables, this demo was a great experience for those in doubt. I am glad to have this opportunity.

UPSTREAM AUDIO – AESTHETIX, FOCAL, SONORE

This room featured a few brands I was unfamiliar with but a great chance to learn and hear more about them. Aesthetix Audio Romulus Sig CD Player / DAC ($12,000 USD) and ClearAudio Reference Jubilee Turntable ($30,000) w/ Hana Umani Blue low output MC cartridge ($2500), Sonore Computer Audio Signature Rendu SE Optical 3.0 Network Streamer ($5,350) and Sonic Transporter I5 Room server ($1,435), handled the source material. The Aesthetix Rhea Sig Phono Preamplifier ($10,000), Pallene Preamp ($6,500) and Dione Power Amplifier round off the signal chain. For speakers, the Focal Kanta No. 3 ($15,000) with cabling by Iconoclast. As familiar as I am with Kanta speakers, it was apparent the Aesthetix products were able to bring a balance to them which presented great tonality and firm bass.

UNIQUE HOME AUDIO LLC / BEACH / DUTCH & DUTCH

I was first able to listen to the Dutch & Dutch 8C speakers ($14,995 ea) at an audio show in 2023 and was very impressed. Having a chance to hear them with the BACCH-SP MKII Audio Stereo Purifier system ($26,800), I was excited. The principle of the technology, short form summary, is to measure in-room sound at the ear location and apply filters to adjust for cross-talk cancellation. With the 8C mounted on Acora Acoustics Granite SRS-G stands ($5000) and streaming music content with the HiFi Rose RS-130 Network Transport ($5,195), the system works like magic. The sound performance is very nearly like wearing headphones and hearing that level of separation.

Very glad I was able to experience this in person.

PLAYBACK AUDIO / VIENNA ACOUSTICS / ADVANCE PARIS

For a fairly modest system, these Vienna Acoustics Haydn speakers ($3495) playing streaming music via Advance Paris WTX Streamtubes Network Streamer ($599) and powered by Advance Paris A10 Integrated Amp ($2499) sounded really smooth and pleasant. Another example of how pairing items with the right character can reveal great performance.

AMERICAN SOUND – AVANTEGARDE ACOUSTIC / PHASEMATION / ORACLE

I never miss a chance to catch up with Angie whenever there is a system at a show. The Avantgarde UNO SD speakers powered by Phasemation MA-1500 Monoblocks and Oracle TurnTable playing music as if a cathedral opened up. There is something special about the sensitivity of a large horn and tube amplification. Yet another great reason why I never miss the chance to hear the room Angie has presented. Really great experience.

Joseph Greenham

Please note, all content and photos are the copyright of HiFi PiG Magazine/Big Pig Media LLP and must not be copied or reproduced in any way without the prior, written consent of HiFi PiG/Big Pig Media.

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